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Monday, June 27, 2022

Stockholm’s Makers get a Crowdfunded Start – and a Great New Space

Noah, who recently turned 17, is the youngest board member at Stockholm Makerspace.

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Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and FabLabs seem to fit much the same mould: a communal space where like-minded, creative folk can share space, machinery and, most importantly, ideas. The two key characteristics of such a space are, first, the community and, second, the gadgets.

Stockholm Makerspace, partly by design and partly by accident, is the epitome of such a community. DIY blogger Filippa Malmegård got involved with the current Maker team after she was interviewed about her DIY blog, Scraphacker and she mentioned wanting to start a Hackspace or Makerspace in Stockholm. Several likeminded men mentioned her in an online forum which Filippa happened upon and the rest, as they say, is history.

Building a community

It’s one thing to talk about starting a Makerspace and another thing entirely to get one going successfully, especially as the notion is still a relatively new one. The Stockholm Makerspace team decided to crowdfund their initial start-up costs. Filippa describes their decision to crowdfund as a deliberate one:

“We have a product that has this sort of mass appeal in a way in a very niche group of people and in this non-profit venture there are a lot of values that are very personal, like self-realisation and stuff like that, so single investors couldn’t really be an umbrella for it. So and we started to build a community via Facebook…. And when we actually started the crowdfunding campaign we already had a community of say 400 people that we were already talking with on a daily basis.”

The original Facebook group now has over 1200 followers.

Filippa points out that building that community before undertaking crowdfunding was part of the reason for their campaign success. The team later also obtained funding from Swedish Innovation Agency Vinnova but found that money alone was not enough to get the Makerspace off the ground: “Our main hurdle [was] sort of Swedish, not legislation, but the system; because we’re looking for space – commercial space – to rent. And you need to have all of these sort of rather hefty guarantees from the bank to show that you can cover the rent for very long term. So although we’ve got almost 200 000 kronor – and that’s enough to cover the running costs – we don’t have that bulk of money sitting somewhere to show that we’re good to cover unforeseeable expenses… We have to sort of get the shot from some nice landlord or someone with an interest in what we’re doing.”

They found an estate agent who believed in them instead, and promoted them to potential landlords and through her, their current space a short amble from Stockholm Central Station – at Wallingatan 12. “She’s definitely also on the hero list!” says Filippa. “The space is a bit big and we need support to keep it running, but …we aim to use the extra space as flexible meet-up space in which we can host creative conversations in various seminar or workshop formats. For example we’ve been working with maker community outreach by hosting a couple of FixIt workshops as a partner to Swedish Berlin based start-up HowDo.”

I attended the first viewing of the space back in May and it was full of excited would-be Makers, including myself. The Makerspace currently has 239 annual members and 67 lab members and members and non-members rub shoulders on open nights.

So far, the Makerspace has run introductory courses on both 3D printing and Arduinos and the team envisions future courses being run by both members and non-members – with a good dose of peer-to-peer learning, of course.

And the gadgets?

If you’re more interested in the gadgets, Stockholm Makerspace is chock-a-block, from a RepRap Printer to a CNC mill to two industrial-grade sewing machines and more. “Not to forget, we also have all the basic creative technology, such as pen and paper!” adds Filippa.
The team also plans to get a few more 3D printers and are currently in the process of acquiring one that can print metal with laser beams.

“Making ideas happen is very much the core of any Makerspace, and sharing stories and experiences have an empowering effect. There is often a defining “Maker moment” or experience that end up shaping the turn of events for an inventor or an entrepreneur, moments that we hope to connect and weave together into a broader and shared experience,” says Filippa.

A PhD student and voracious reader based in Stockholm, Claire Ingram is interested in open innovation, co-creation, start-up funding, public policy and pictures of puppies on Reddit. You can contact her on Twitter @Claire_EBI.

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